Curator with controversial past joins gallery

Josef Ng is back in Singapore after years of working in Thailand and China.
Josef Ng is back in Singapore after years of working in Thailand and China.PHOTO: PEARL LAM GALLERIES

Josef Ng, whose pubic hair-snipping performance in 1994 caused a furore, is now Pearl Lam Galleries' managing director of Asia

Curator Josef Ng has been hired by Pearl Lam Galleries as its managing director of Asia. More than 20 years ago, as an artist, his controversial pubic hair-snipping performance caused the Government to stop funding performance art for a decade.

Pearl Lam Galleries is a prominent contemporary art gallery from China with branches in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore's Gillman Barracks art cluster. Ng left Singapore more than two decades ago and has been based in cities such as Bangkok and Shanghai as a curator.

"Josef has a strong background and wealth of experience in contemporary art, especially Asian art," said the gallery's founder Pearl Lam in a press statement yesterday. "He will work alongside our team to shift discourses and further strengthen our profile in the international contemporary art industry."

In the same statement, Ng said: "At a time when identity, shared culture and values are increasingly relevant to us all, Pearl Lam Galleries is compellingly placed to generate a discourse by reflecting on what binds us together. It is an honour to lead the Galleries at a particularly vital time in its development."

The 43-year-old most recently served as director of the Shanghai Gallery of Art, taking over from outgoing director Mathieu Borysevicz in 2013.

He helmed the Chinese gallery Tang Contemporary Art as its artistic and executive director from 2006 to 2011.

Before that, he was director of Gallery Ver in Bangkok, Thailand.

Ng is remembered in Singapore for his performance art piece, Brother Cane, staged at an event on New Year's Day of 1994, in which he bared his buttocks and trimmed his pubic hair to protest against media coverage of an anti-gay operation in 1992.

The report of his performance sparked a furore, and he was charged with performing an indecent act under the Penal Code by the police. He was fined $1,000.

The incident was condemned by the National Arts Council, which withdrew funding for the scriptless art forms of performance art and forum theatre. Performance art is a form of live performance with its roots in the visual arts, while forum theatre is a form of social theatre which allows audiences to step into the actors' shoes to change a play's outcome.

The no-funding rule was lifted in 2004.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 24, 2015, with the headline 'Curator with controversial past joins gallery'. Print Edition | Subscribe